Outrageous Escapism: Sharr Mountains National Park, Kosovo

Outrageous Escapism: Sharr Mountains National Park, Kosovo

A midpoint between the mountainous wilds of North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania, this unspoiled corner of the Balkans is home to brown bears, lynx and myriad indigenous flowers. Get past the occasional lack of running water and punishing winter climes, and you’re in for a treat.


Sharr National Park,


Once strewn with litter, the Sharr Mountains National Park has
in recent years become one of the most important conservation areas
in the Balkans. Kosovo’s craggy mountains have been climbed for
centuries by nomadic farmers and pilgrims, but bubbling disputes
and a war in 1998-9 means this branch of the Dinaric Alps is still
largely off the radar as a holiday destination. In 2008 Kosovo
finally gained independence from Serbia, but remains a disputed

Forming a natural border with North
, the Dinaric Alps are home to hundreds of rare
species of flora and fauna, as well as wolves, brown bears and
golden jackals. In summer, its glacial lakes turn milky blue as the
snow melts. With an Alpine climate but a fraction of the Alps’
infrastructure, the 500km national park is a protected wilderness
that feels totally remote. An astonishing lack of air pollution
makes for excellent stargazing.

The village of Brezovica near the North Macedonian border serves
as a base for mountaineering and trekking. In winter, it’s a decent
enough ski resort (albeit with only one lift), and a jumping-off
point for snow-shoeing and cross-country expeditions.

Where to stay

‘s swish spa is rather at odds with the wild surrounds
and lack of tourists, but has various plunge pools, hot tubs and a
panoramic glass-walled swimming pool. It makes for a luxurious
escape at a fraction of the price of similar mountain retreats. For
something more down to earth, Woodland
in Brezovica is the Balkan’s answer to a cosy Alpine log

What to pack

At an elevation of 2,694m, the Dinaric Alps get pretty nippy in
winter. If you’re planning to be cycling or hiking, Norse Projects Tromso Black Gore-Tex jacket
makes for a great top layer over jerseys and sweaters. Running
water is unreliable at best, so make sure you have plenty of supply
at all times, and perhaps consider investing in a SteriPen to filter and purify your own water.

Travel tip-off

Many of the basic trails you’ll find on maps don’t actually
exist, so we’d recommend hiking with a guide, such as Balkan Natural
. Also keep in mind that if you’re travelling during
Ramadan, alcohol is seriously off limits in public places; although
Kosovo is a secular state, more than 90 per cent of the population
are practicing Muslims. If you’re spending any time in Priština,
stop for a traditional lunch at Renaissance restaurant- just don’t
expect an English menu.

How to get there

Sharr Mountains National Park is about 70km from the capital of
Priština, where there are regular connecting flights from Istanbul,
and Zurich.
Alternatively, it’s possible to cross the border from
or from North
into southwestern Kosovo.

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